||The Ghost in the Machine
by M.J. Fishbane
In Mary Woodbury's The Ghost in the Machine, overweight and awkward
fifteen-year-old Tyler Graham finds a ghost in his dead uncle's
destroyed Volkswagen beetle one summer night. The ghost, who looks
like a teenage version of Tyler's Uncle Scott, tells him to fix the
car. Suddenly inspired, Tyler, who has no previous mechanical
experience, decides to do as the ghost asks. With the help of his
new friend, Haley Nixon, Tyler discovers why his mother is so
depressed, how his uncle Scott died, and he learns crucial facts
about the feud between his family and another.
The book's simple language is offset by the complex storyline of
family feuds, betrayal, murder and self-discovery. Indeed, there
is so much happening in this book, that some of the minor plot lines
get lost. Woodbury is so determined to make her characters believable,
that in some ways they become two-dimensional because they appear
contrived. Tyler's grandfather, for example, is portrayed as a
"tyrant" who is often angry and will call people
"eco-pacifist- vegetarian hippies."
In fact, this story of community, growth and togetherness becomes
something of an "ABC After School Special." Anytime that
Tyler is faced with his grandfather's bigotry or mean-spirited
remarks, Woodbury makes sure readers know that Tyler does not feel
that way. Tyler likes the "eco-pacifist-vegetarian hippies"
because they give the valley a "dash of other-worldliness."
And she never forgets to remind us how "chubby" or
"flabby" Tyler is so that she can contrast this with his
physical transformation at the end of the summer into a taller and
more slender young man. So that like his car and the mystery behind
his family's secrets, Tyler too gets "repaired.